By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — A land swap that would resolve a decades-old title problem is a step closer to reality after Town Meeting approved warrant Article 6 Monday night. The Town Meeting action authorizes the Board of Selectmen to petition the legislature to enact special legislation permitting the town to exchange parcels of land with builder Elias Anjim.
The land swap is also favored by neighbors in the Stark Avenue area who believe that by acquiring the two parcels from Anjim the town can prevent development that would worsen flooding in the neighborhood.
The town would convey to Anjim a 1.31 acre parcel on Upland Road and receive from Anjim two parcels – one on Holland Road consisting of 2.65 acres and one fronting on Stark Avenue consisting of 1.53 acres.
Town Counsel Thomas Mullen reviewed the background that led to the proposed land swap.
A portion of the land now owned by Anjim had been in legal limbo due to a dispute related to a 1987 Order of Conditions issued by the Conservation Commission allowing Anjim construct a subdivision, Mullen explained. Earlier this year, the Conservation Commission agreed to release the Order of Conditions but the Board of Selectmen declined to accept a conservation easement that was key to the agreement and the deal collapsed.
Neighbors, meanwhile, came up with a plan whereby Anjim would convey two contiguous lots totaling 4.18 acres to the town as conservation land in exchange for a buildable 1.31 acre lot of town-owned, tax title land fronting on Upland Road.
Mullen said that the town would get two lots with a combined assessed value of $102,900 in exchange for one lot with an assessed value of $52,300.
The town can’t swap land without special legislation, Mullen said, and that was the reason for Article 6.
Lance Kelley of Stark Avenue said that the two pieces of land going to the town would provide more control over the flooding that has plagued the area.
“The parties most directly involved agree that this is a satisfactory solution,” Kelley said.
Other Stark Avenue neighbors, including Glen Melton and Joseph Melton, also spoke in favor of the proposed land swap.
John Anjim, the son of land-owner Elijah Anjim, pleaded with Town Meeting to approve the swap, saying that he planned to live on the property once developed so that his children could grow up in Wakefield like he did.
Robert Mitchell of Spaulding Street proposed an amendment, which passed, that would prohibit Anjim from further subdividing the land. Ultimately, Article 6 carried, as amended.
Under Article 5, Town Meeting approved $350,000 from Free Cash to be used by the Board of Assessors in computing the FY 2015 tax rate.
Town Meeting also approved under Article 7 $150,000 for a feasibility study related to “the possible repair, renovation or replacement” of Wakefield Memorial High School at 60 Farm St.
School Superintendent Dr. Stephen Zrike listed a litany of deficiencies at the school, which he said was “ill equipped for 21st century learning.”
Selectman Phyllis Hull opposed funding the study, saying that longstanding needs at the Greenwood School continue to go unaddressed.
After some further discussion, Article 7 carried.
Following a brief discussion, Town Meeting approved Article 8, which would designate $250,000 from Free Cash for the expansion of Forest Glade Cemetery.
Town Meeting approved $125,000 from Free Cash for improvements to traffic signals along Salem Street in Montrose. DPW Director Richard Stinson said that the new adaptive signal control system could detect changing traffic patterns in real time and relieve congestion.
Under Article 10, Town Meeting approved $250,000 from Free Cash to upgrade the town’s core IT network system.
Town Meeting agreed under Article 11 to place $300,000 in reserve to fund pending collective bargaining agreements with the police and firefighters unions.
Under Article 13, Town Meeting heard and accepted the report of the Permanent Building Committee on the status of the Galvin Middle School project. PBC secretary Joseph Bertrand said that the Galvin project was “on time and on budget.” He promised that by September of 2015 the remaining work to construct the gymnasium and music rooms, as well as site work will be completed.
The 2014 Regular Town Meeting opened with Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio’s report on the FY 2014 budget under Article 1.
Maio said that the town was in “the best shape in recent history.”
He said that new growth last year topped out at $1.3 million and the town exceeded expected revenues for the hotel and meals taxes, coming in at a combined $750,000.
He noted that the town had $8,491,969 in its Free Cash account. Even after funding several of the capital expenditures proposed under other articles on the Town Meeting warrant, Maio said, Free Cash would still remain close to $7.3 million.
Maio said that last year all town departments stayed within or actually expended less than their appropriated budgets.
Monday’s Regular Town Meeting was dissolved at 10:20 p.m. with 240 voters in attendance.